From back in the day when Frank Sartor was Minister for Redfern-Waterloo, Redfern has been known as the only suburb with its own Minister. With the elevation of Kristina Keneally, the current Minister for Redfern-Waterloo, to the NSW Premiership, Redfern can now smugly be referred to as the only suburb with its very own Premier!
We won’t be mentioning Carmen Lawrence or Joan Kirner…
Redfern’s new claim to fame is not breaking news, as Kristina Keneally has been in the hot seat since Joe Tripodi got his knives into Nathan Rees in early December (side note: how long until Tripodi makes his return to the front bench?). But I wanted to post a couple of thoughts about the Redfern Waterloo Authority (RWA), as I’m sure it will feature in future posts.
Some time soon I will put up a potted history of the history of the RWA, but first I wanted to discuss some of the reasons that the RWA might even exist.
The Redfern-Waterloo area has high instances of disadvantage, including high density social housing and a large Aboriginal population. At the same time, there is increasing affluence in the area as gentrification has slowly but surely taken hold over the years. In part this has meant a reduction in the number of low-income households who previously could afford to buy or rent in the area, an influx of the wealthy and conflict between these new residents and the low-income families that have been able to stay in the area because of access to social housing.
Whilst the extra attention to solving the social issues faced by many of this community is welcome, how is it that the RWA, seemingly another layer of bureaucracy, came to occupy this position? The RWA website states that “The Redfern-Waterloo Authority is responsible for revitalising Redfern, Waterloo, Eveleigh and Darlington through urban renewal, improved human services and job creation.” This indicates a concern with improving the welfare of residents, but this doesn’t say why that creation of the authority, and removal of development decision-making from the more democratically representative City of Sydney Council.
With other areas of NSW and Sydney facing higher crime rates, higher rates of domestic violence and lower health outcomes, why was it necessary to impose this unique response onto the Redfern community?
The cynic in me (and every second Inner South resident) suspects a role for the significant NSW Government landholdings in the area. Government owned properties called in as State significant (therefore avoiding normal development controls) and at risk of over-development include the Rachel Forster Hospital, Australian Technology Park, Redfern Railway Station and surrounding lands, the Redfern Police Station / Courthouse and the significant lands at North Eveleigh. Add to this a new policy to redevelop and sell-off public housing lands in the area.
The real kicker is the dressing up State Government asset management as action for community well-being. A real attempt to assist those in need in this community would bring new resources and an open mind, not plans to co-ordinate the delivery of services outside the control of Government and without the imput of many of those organisations.
But perhaps the Minister for Redfern/Waterloo, and Member for Heffron (the electoral seat that covers the area) has other things on her mind?